Orpah King: Selling groceries with a touch of love
When customers walked into King's Red and White market, they knew they would get more than groceries.
They'd get love.
The store's biggest draw wasn't on the shelves, but in a tiny corner office.
That's where Orpah Turrentine King, who died Sunday at age 90, kept the store's books for 58 years.
Mrs. King and her husband opened the store in 1956, and always emphasized customer service and locally grown food.
None of that has changed. In fact, the store at 305 E. Club Blvd. stands in stark contrast to the rushed, often-impersonal world of today's supermarkets.
Impersonal is not the King way.
The family-run store in Bragtown still does many things the old-fashioned way - making home deliveries if a longtime customer is sick, ringing up groceries on a vintage register. If a customer dies, the store sends flowers. That's helped the store thrive in an era of corporate-owned grocery chains.
Mrs. King set the example. She loved her customers, and was happy to spend time talking with them even if they bought nothing.
"She would do anything for anybody," Mrs. King's eldest son, William Brinkley King Jr., said as he choked back tears. "You could see her little white head popped up in her office above the railing. She loved to talk to customers, and they loved her. "
A Durham native, Mrs. King faithfully devoted her time to the store after the death of her husband, William Brinkley King, 26 years ago. Until she became sick at age 88, Mrs. King drove to work daily except Sundays.
"She never took a vacation," Mr. King said. "The store was her life."
The King family still runs the grocery and has no plans to change that. But family members know they've lost something that can never be replaced.
"I know everybody thinks their mom's the best, but she was the most caring person I've ever known," Mr. King said. "She loved life, and was just a wonderful person. Everybody loved her. They really did."